I received an email from a complete stranger, Ron Boatwright, wanting me to evaluate his website on what he views as being incorrect Baptist doctrine. While I had some reservations, I looked into it and saw what he was writing. I cannot speak for other churches calling themselves Baptist. There are 50 different flavors of Baptist churches out there and they rarely agree on all things all the time. However, I can speak for what Hope believes, some of which is indicated in our Statement of Faith. Over the next few weeks I will endeavor to take the words of Mr. Boatwright as he wrote them and defend our beliefs, which derive not from a man-made system but from a plain reading of the Scriptures. This week I will focus on the topic of Baptism.
Mr. Boatwright comes from a Church of Christ background. The belief and focus of that particular denomination, and the Restoration Movement that it sprang from, is a focus on the New Testament over the Old. While they hold the Old Testament to be inspired, we are no longer under the Old Covenant and thus should focus on this New Covenant that we find ourselves under. For the purposes of this “debate”, I will limit myself to the New Testament to show to Mr. Boatwright the error from Scripture of his doctrine.
Boatwright opens his discussion of Baptist doctrine with the following paragraphs: “Most Baptists teach that all one must do is "accept Jesus as your personal Saviour" and say the "Sinner's Prayer" in order to be saved and have your sins forgiven. They say that baptism is not essential to salvation and not essential for the forgiveness of sins. They claim that they are saved and their sins are forgiven before and without baptism. But where in the Bible is any of this found? It is not there because men, with the help of Satan, have come up with these false ideas.
But what does the Bible say? Jesus says in Mark 16:16, "He who believes and is baptized shall be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned". But just as 1+1=2, Jesus says belief + baptism = saved. One needs help to misunderstand Jesus. How much clearer could Jesus have said it? People are given a simple choice: they can believe and be baptized in order to be saved, or they can disbelieve and be condemned. One who is not baptized in order to be saved shows that he does not really believe Jesus and because of this he will not be saved, but will be eternally condemned to Hell.”
I will leave the topics of accepting Jesus as Savior and the “Sinner’s Prayer” for another day. Our stance here at Hope is that water baptism by immersion is not essential for salvation. It is clearly defined in Point #14 of our Statement of Faith along with the corresponding verses that support that position. It is not a false idea and can be plainly supported by the Bible.
Boatwright’s main contention for his position is found in the following verses:
· Mark 16:16- He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.
At issue with this verse is the definition of baptism. There are two Greek words used for baptism in the New Testament, bapto and baptizo. The clearest example that shows the meaning of baptizo is from the Greek poet and physician Nicander. He wrote a recipe for making pickles that is helpful because it uses both words. Nicander says that in order to make a pickle, the vegetable should first be 'dipped' (bapto) into boiling water and then 'baptized' (baptizo) in the vinegar solution. Both verbs concern the immersing of vegetables in a solution. The first is temporary, while the second, the act of baptizing the vegetable, produces a permanent change. Boatwright confuses the dipping of our bodies in water during a temporary ceremony with the permanent indwelling of the Holy Spirit that produces a permanent change in us.
Another point we must consider is the second clause in this verse. Jesus states that whoever does not believe will be damned. Baptism is not a consideration here. Faith is the issue.
· Acts 2:38- Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
At issue here is the definition of for. In the original Greek, eis or for could have two meanings. If you saw a poster saying "Jesse James wanted for robbery", "for" could mean Jesse is wanted so he can commit a robbery, or is wanted because he has committed a robbery. The later sense is the correct one. So too in this passage, the word "for" signifies an action in the past. We have already been forgiven our sins and baptism is a public recognition of that.
· Acts 22:16- And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.
Once again, baptizo is the Greek used here, and denotes a permanent change, not a temporary dipping.
I will even add another verse that would seem to support his position:
· John 3:5- Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.
Water is used symbolically in the Scripture many times. In Revelation it refers to the Gentile world. However, Jesus refers to Himself as the Living Water. Consider John 7:37-39: 37- In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. 38 He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. 39 (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.) With that in mind, consider these verses:
o Ephesians 5:26- That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,
o Hebrews 10:22- Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.
The water being referenced in these verses is not baptismal waters in a river or baptismal font (which will never be considered pure), but Jesus Himself. Unless we are born again by our faith in Jesus and the imbedding of the Holy Spirit, we will not be saved and we cannot enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.
At a surface level, these verses would seem to overwhelmingly support his contention that baptism is essential for salvation. However, sound doctrine must always be based on the whole teaching of the Bible, not just on verses here or there that we pick to support our position. Those verses must be understood in context and with an understanding of the original language.
I want to leave you with three verses that show that faith and faith alone produces salvation. The first is Ephesians 2:8-9: For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast. Mr. Boatwright makes baptism a work necessary for salvation, and this verse clearly shows that that is not the case. The second is Titus 3:5: Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost. This verse again stresses our works are meaningless to salvation, and the baptism described here is that of the Holy Spirit, not a ceremony. Finally, Paul lists two conditions for salvation in Romans 10:9: That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. The two conditions here are belief and confession by mouth. Nowhere does Paul mention baptism. Indeed, in the Book of Romans, Paul’s treatise on salvation, baptism is mentioned only in two verses (6:3-4) and those two verses are spiritual in nature, not physical.
Finally, let us consider Luke 23:39-43: And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us. 40 But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss. 42 And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. 43 And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.
The Thief on the Cross destroys so many man-made systems. He was degenerate, worthy of death by his own admission. Yet the only thing he did was confess Jesus as Lord, and he was saved. The Thief was never baptized, never took communion, never did anything but place his faith and trust in Jesus. Mr. Boatwright, who treats our position as man-made, must explain this passage away and he cannot do so.
Salvation is by faith alone. In no way should this post lead you to not consider baptism. We are commanded in several places to do so. It is a commandment from our Lord. But it is separate from salvation, and something that should only be done after a genuine baptism by the Holy Spirit that leads to regeneration and a new life. That is the baptism referenced in these passages, and the only answer to wash away our sins and begin a new life in Him._
A few thoughts on current events, upcoming sermons and other matters of concern from a Biblical perspective.